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first state election. Furthermore, they provided in section 18 that "in voting for or against the adoption of this constitution the words 'for constitution' or 'against constitution' may be written or printed on the ticket of each voter, but no voter shall vote for or against this constitution on a separate ballot from that cast by him for officers to be elected at said election under this constitution." This clause alone assured practically a unanimous vote. In those days candidates and groups of candidates printed their own ballots to be distributed among the voters. The campaign was on before the constitutional conventions had adjourned. Both Republican and Democratic organizations were determined to carry the state in this first election. How utterly ruinous to all chances of party success it would have been for either party or for any group of candidates to have printed a ballot at the head of which were printed the words "against constitution" and upon which appeared the names of men running for office under the constitution! It would have put the candidates in the position of running for offices which they hoped would not be created. It would have put them on record as against statehood. Naturally, no such ballots would be printed. Consequently, every voter who voted for officers under the constitution either had to vote "for constitution" or strike out the words "for constitution" printed upon his ballot, and write in the words "against constitution." This would put the voter in an absurd position and probably very few resorted to this device. The simple fact is that there was no separate clear-cut expression of popular approval or disapproval of the constitution. Under the circumstances no such expression was possible.
2. THE FIRST SESSION OF THE STATE LEGISLATURE. On October 13, 1857, the voters of the proposed state not only adopted the constitution, as has been pointed out above, but they also, in accordance with the requirements of sections 16 to 19, inclusive, of the schedule of the constitution, elected three representatives to the national Congress and a full complement of state legislative, executive, and judicial officers. On Wednesday, December 2, as required by section 6 of the schedule, the first legislature of the state assembled in the capitol at St. Paul.
There was considerable doubt from the outset as to the legality of the session. The state had not yet been admitted to the Union. The governor, lieutenant governor, and other officers-elect of the state had not taken office and were forbidden by the constitution to do so until after the admission of the state by Congress.5 In the absence of Lieutenant Governor Holcombe,
Cf. Cong. Globe, 35 Cong., I sess., p. 1141.
The Democratic party was completely victorious, although the vote on the governorship was close enough to make Alexander Ramsey believe that he was actually entitled to be governor instead of Sibley. Folwell, Minnesota, 149; Minn. in Three Cen., 3:57-58.
The original constitution provided that "The term of each of the executive offices named in this article, shall commence upon taking the oath of office, after the state shall be admitted by congress into the union."
Art. 5, sec. 7.
the senate chose a president pro tem and subsequently a "president of the senate." The latter office was unknown to the constitution, and indeed the incumbent was so uncertain as to the exact position he occupied that he sometimes signed himself as "president" and at other times as "president pro tem."
Another difficulty arose from the fact that the Republican minority in both houses objected strenuously to the entire proceedings on the grounds of legality. They could not comprehend in what position Minnesota stood if a state legislature were to pass laws to be approved by a territorial governor. To give point to their opposition the senate Republicans entered a “solemn protest against the recognition by this body, in any manner, directly or indirectly, of Samuel Medary, Esquire, Governor of the Territory of Minnesota, as the Governor of the State of Minnesota, or as being invested with any of the rights, authority, privileges, powers or functions of Governor of said State of Minnesota." This protest was uttered in vain. The Democratic majority in both houses voted in favor of the joint session to hear Governor Medary's message, and after an examination of the question by a committee the senate accepted the majority report which sustained the legality of the session and the propriety of recognizing the territorial executive officers."
From December 2 the legislature continued in session for nearly four months, doing a great deal of business. It passed altogether thirty-two general and ninety-two special laws.10 Two of the former were proposed amendments to the constitution, both of which were adopted by the voters nearly a month before the admission of the state.11 In addition to these labors it elected two United States senators, Messrs. Rice and Shields. Governor Medary having left the territory in the meantime, Secretary Chase signed the various acts first as acting governor and again as secretary. This was the time when Minnesota had a state governor-elect impatiently waiting to assume office, a territorial governor who had so little interest in the territory's affairs that he left his position there for more important business elsewhere, and a secretary of the territory acting at one and the same time as governor and secretary.12
The amendments to which reference has been made deserve a more extended notice. The financial difficulties which began in 1857 still lingered on in 1858. Railroad building even by the land-grant companies was simply out of the question unless the state should give them some very direct assistance.13 The idea which was fostered was that the state should loan its credit
• Senate Journal 1857-1858, pp. 3, 6.
Cf. ibid., pp. 247, 264, 267, 270, 370.
Ibid., pp. 27-28. See also House Journal, 1857-1858, pp. 58-59.
• Senate Journal pp. 28-29, 62-67. But see the minority report, pp. 72-74.
10 Sess. Laws, 1858, passim. The laws are not all printed in the order of their passage.
11 Ibid., ch. 1, 2. See pp. 173-74, 185-87.
12 Cf. Hall, Observations, pp. 24-25.
13 Folwell, in Minn. Hist. Col., 15:193-95.
to the companies, without directly obligating itself to pay, and that the roads, thus bolstered up, should then borrow on state credit the money needed for railroad construction. But until the state was legally and formally organized it had no credit; this was exactly the sort of situation to which Governor Gorman had called attention a year before.14 Congress was proceeding very slowly to the work of admitting Minnesota to the Union; no one knew when the admission would take place. A special committee of the House, appointed to investigate this matter, was unable to learn anything of importance concerning the delay.15 There seemed but one thing to do, and though it smacked of revolution this was the course adopted. Two amendments were submitted at once, one to authorize the loan of state credit, and the other to empower the state executive officers to assume their respective offices on May 1, 1858, whether the state had been admitted at that time or not.16 The amendments were adopted but they were not, as a matter of fact, put into effect until after the admission of the state. They did serve, however, to give congressional critics an additional point upon which to attack the procedure in Minnesota.17
3. CONGRESS AND THE ACT OF ADMISSION. It was on January 11, 1858, that President Buchanan, having received from Governor Medary a copy of the Minnesota constitution, submitted it to the Senate and at the same time notified the House of his action.18 The question of the admission of the state was at once referred to the committees on territories of the respective houses. Senator Douglas, chairman of the Senate committee, reported out a bill for admission on January 26, and two days later attempted in vain to bring it up for consideration.19 He renewed his effort on February 1, but again without success. Other business blocked the way.
In a very illuminating letter which Congressman-elect Becker wrote from Washington on February 9 to Sibley we find the chief reasons for the delay.2 The Democratic party was already divided on the Kansas question. Douglas and other northern Democrats had no enthusiasm for the administration's policy in the Kansas matter, while the southern members insisted on the immediate admission of that state under the Lecompton constitution. Somehow the impression had got abroad in Washington that the senators and representatives from Minnesota were opposed to the administration on the Kansas question, an impression which was undoubtedly well founded and which the Minnesota members neither wished nor dared to contradict. Hence
14 See p. 56.
16 House Journal 1857-1858, p. 246.
18 See note 11, above.
17 Cong. Globe, 35 Cong., 1 sess., pp. 1949, 1953. Representative John Sherman (Ohio) said, in the course of his bitter attack upon the bill to admit Minnesota (p. 1949): "While we are sitting here, to say whether they shall come into the Union under this constitution, they are proposing to change it! What is the change they propose? It is to allow the people of this infant State to be loaded down with a debt of $5,000,000 to aid some unorganized railroad companies of land jobbers."
18 Cong. Globe, 35 Cong., I sess., pp. 246, 254.
19 Ibid., pp. 405, 462.
20 Sibley Papers Jan.-June, 1858, Minnesota Historical Society.
it was that on both occasions when Douglas tried to bring up the Minnesota bill southern senators were ready to prevent consideration. The southerners wanted the Kansas question settled first, and one of them warned that "If you admit Minnesota and exclude Kansas, standing on the same principle, the spirit of our revolutionary fathers is utterly extinct if this government can last for one short twelvemonth."21
The delay which followed was exceedingly painful to the Minnesota members. Days dragged into weeks and weeks into months and still nothing was done. The Kansas bill finally passed the Senate despite the opposition of some northern Democrats as well as Republicans but still no action was taken to revive the Minnesota bill. Grown weary at last of cooling his heels in the lobbies and ante-rooms, Senator-elect Shields on February 24 addressed a communication to his friend Senator Crittenden of Kentucky in which he made application for his seat in the Senate.22 His argument, very cleverly drawn, asserted that by her acceptance of the enabling act Minnesota had ceased to be a territory and had become a state; that since there could be no such thing as a state out of the Union, Minnesota must be a state in the Union; and if so, then her representatives were being unjustly and illegally denied their seats in Congress. This question was referred to the judiciary committee and on March 4 Senator Bayard reported from that body the laconic conclusion "That Minnesota is not a State of the Union, under the constitution and laws."23
There followed then almost three weeks more of waiting. On March 23 Douglas again sought to bring up the Minnesota bill, and on the 24th he finally succeeded.24 From that day on for two weeks he struggled to keep this question uppermost in the mind of the Senate, and while he was unable to force its consideration for consecutive days until it had been passed or defeated, he did succeed in bringing it finally to a vote on April 7 when it was passed by forty-nine to three.25 The bills which stood in the way during this period were the Pacific railroad bill and the House substitute for the Kansas bill.
The bill for admission was promptly transmitted to the House, where it fell to the lot of Representative Alexander H. Stephens, as chairman of the committee on territories, to bring it on for debate. This he attempted to do on April 15 but found himself blocked.26 On May 3 he succeeded in having it made a special order for the next day and for the next three days the bill was debated at some length. On Friday, May 7, 1858, it was put over until Tuesday, May 11, when it was finally put upon its passage, passed by the
Cong. Globe, 35 Cong., I sess., p. 501.
Ibid., pp. 861-62.
Ibid., p. 957.
24 Ibid., pp. 1265, 1299.
25 Ibid., p. 1516.
20 Ibid., p. 1610.
House, and approved the same day by the president." On the next day the senators were sworn in and given their seats in the Senate, but the two representatives, chosen by lot from among the three elected, were not seated until May 22.
An analysis of the opposition to the act admitting Minnesota to the Union clearly establishes the fact that it had no cohesion and no common ground on which to stand. The group of administration senators who insisted on the passage of the Kansas measure before the Minnesota bill could find no consistent reason for opposition once the Kansas bill had passed. The final Senate vote on the admission of Minnesota disclosed only three senators, all southerners and irreconcilables, voting against the bill.28 In the House the final vote was one hundred and fifty-seven to thirty-eight. The latter number included twelve extremely partisan Republicans, who disliked to see Minnesota coming in as a Democratic state, eleven members of the American party, who opposed the alien suffrage provisions of the Minnesota constitution, nine former Whigs with Republican sympathies, three Democrats, two Free-Soilers, and one Unionist, with varying objections to the bill or to the constitution. When it came to voting the Democratic majorities in both houses closed their ranks and voted almost unanimously for admission. What would have happened if Minnesota had sent Republicans instead of Democrats to represent her in Washington can only be conjectured, but it was probably just as well that the Democrats carried the state.
While it is true that the opposition was not united there were not lacking many pretexts for prolonging the debate. No one who has read the entire record would attempt to deny that there were numerous irregularities in the procedure leading up to, during, and even after the drawing up and adoption of the state constitution. The interesting fact is, however, that the senators and representatives who desired to oppose the admission of Minnesota found and utilized in their arguments nearly all the irregularities which existed and some which did not exist at all. They found illegalities in the election of the delegates, in the organization and procedure of the constitutional convention, in the contents of the constitution, in the election for the adoption of that instrument, and in the acts of the legislature and the people in legislating under the constitution and even amending it before the admission of the state. The debates upon admission, therefore, and also those upon the seating of Minnesota's representatives, throw some light, and at times not a little darkness, upon the constitutional process in Minnesota.
Both in the Senate and in the House, there was objection to Minnesota's claims to representation in Congress. It was argued with much justice that Minnesota had no right to three representatives, and that it had contravened
Cong. Globe, 35 Cong., I sess., pp. 2061, 2070.
28 Senators Clay (Ala.), Kennedy (Md.), and Yulee (Fla.). Cf. Minn. Hist. Col., 8:176.